Gerard Cherizol and his Escape Hybrid  (Source: New York Times)
Ford leads the way with its Escape Hybrid

In May of 2007, DailyTech reported on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement that all New York City (NYC) yellow cabs would be hybrids by the year 2012. At the time of the story, 90 percent of the taxis roaming the streets of NYC were the venerable Ford Crown Victoria.

The higher initial costs of hybrids versus traditional taxis like the Crown Vic were once seen as a huge drawback by some cab drivers, but the inevitable 2012 deadline is pushing more and more to adopt hybrids. According to a recent story by the New York Times, 1,020 of the 13,150 taxis (7.8%) scurrying through NYC are hybrids.

The list of hybrids currently seeing service in NYC shouldn't be a surprise to many. There are 92 Toyota Highlanders, 18 Toyota Prius', 31 Toyota Camrys, and 23 Nissan Altimas in the hybrid fleet. The most popular hybrid by far, however, is the Ford Escape Hybrid with a whopping 845 units.

Ford Escape Hybrid taxi drivers were reporting fuel savings of $20 to $31 per shift last year in San Francisco. Those figures are holding firm in NYC this year -- Gerard Cherizol, a Ford Escape Hybrid taxi driver, says that he saves $20 to $25 per day compared to his now defunct Crown Vic.

"This one, I’m in love, especially since this is the first car I bought," said 25-year veteran Cherizol. "It’s so fast, I pass like a little bird on the highway."

All is not perfect with the hybrid Escapes, however. Some older passengers have complained about the higher step-in height of the Escape versus the Crown Vic. Also, some drivers are a bit leery of the clear plastic partition that separates the driver from the front passenger seat -- this is in addition the partition already in place to separate the driver from the rear passengers. Many are concerned that the partition would be a hindrance in the unlikely event that a collision would cause the driver's door to become jammed.

"The space is not as good as in a Crown Victoria, and I can’t relax because of the plastic partition," said a driver who wished to remain anonymous. "Some drivers are afraid of accidents because of the partitions."

Other downsides include slightly more expensive replacement parts and less knowledgeable mechanics when it comes to repairing hybrids.

Most hybrid taxi drivers, however, are content with the fuel savings achieved by their vehicles. The Ford Escape Hybrid is rated at 34 MPG in the city in front-wheel drive guise. In addition, Ford says that most of its hybrid Escapes go 200,000 miles or more without any problems with the battery pack used to power the electric motor in and around NYC. Likewise, some Prius' have even managed to pass the 250,000 mile mark on original batteries.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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